The Best Albums of 2018

Posted December 6, 2018 11:05 p.m. EST

FILE -- Juice WRLD in Brooklyn, July 19, 2018. The hip-hop newcomer's "Goodbye & Good Riddance" album speaks of a lost soul. (Krista Schlueter/The New York Times)

1. Soccer Mommy, ‘Clean’

From indie-rock singer-songwriter Sophie Allison, who records as Soccer Mommy, comes a ferocious howl of an album that captures the tension just as the fear of internal collapse gives way to newfound strength. These songs are damp with derision, regret and desire, but never uncertainty.

2. Charlie Puth, ‘Voicenotes’

The year’s most promising pure pop album is from a painstakingly detail-oriented, emotionally wrenched, melodically ambitious soul and funk savant who’s just now, a couple of years into his run in the limelight, learning how to squeeze the most arresting of sentiments from the rawest of arrangements.

3. Juice WRLD, ‘Goodbye & Good Riddance’

The pop-punk of 2018 is hip-hop, and Juice WRLD is its best brat. On this album, he’s a lost soul — a victim of others and also himself — who’s never at a loss for melody.

4. Drake, ‘Scorpion’

A double album that captures all the essential Drake modes: indignation, flirtation, celebration and more indignation. No one is better at internal narrative continuity than Drake, which is why he has the ability to make an album that’s utterly current while effortlessly blending with the Drake of yesterday.

5. Gunna, ‘Drip Season 3’; Lil Baby, ‘Harder Than Ever’; Lil Baby and Gunna, ‘Drip Harder

The children of Young Thug are alive and thriving — beautiful, abstract singer-rappers peddling street-corner psychedelia. Lil Baby is wiry and rough-edged, while the elegant Gunna verges on new age.

6. Ashley McBryde, ‘Girl Going Nowhere’

Lean, sinewy, blues-inflected country music from a singer with a voice that’s thick but nimble. The still beauty in her singing is impressive, but her easeful storytelling feels practically radical.

7. Kanye West, ‘Ye’ and Kids See Ghosts, ‘Kids See Ghosts’

Broken records for a broken year. For more than a decade, Kanye West has released albums that shifted and reframed pop culture, making bold propositions about hip-hop’s dissolving boundaries. These albums are smaller than that — plangent ruminations that demonstrated that even amid all the tumult, not all of his instincts abandoned him.

8. Cardi B, ‘Invasion of Privacy’

Cardi B, who arrived at rapping after stints of Instagram and reality-TV fame, isn’t much beholden to tradition, or to one particular version of herself. So what’s thrilling about this album is its variety — you hear her working through who she might become in real time, a quick study already leapfrogging to the front of the class.

9. The Weeknd, ‘My Dear Melancholy,’

As the Weeknd has reached for the pop stratosphere in recent years, he’s shed some of the scar tissue that made his earliest music so transfixingly unsettling. This between-albums EP demonstrates that he hasn’t lost those abrasions.

10. Kane Brown, ‘Experiment’

Sturdy songs about love. Sturdy songs about lust. Sturdy songs about faithfulness. Sturdy songs about growing up country. And one sturdy song about how political hypocrisy and its repercussions can drown out all of those things.

11. Pusha T, ‘Daytona’

Listening to Pusha T rap is like watching a skyscraper get built one steel girder at a time: Every step is carefully programmed, every angle is crisp, and the sum total effect is overpowering.

12. The Blaze, ‘Dancehall’

Club music reframed as earth art.

13. Turnstile, ‘Time & Space’

Hardcore that pummels locally and reaches across the aisle.

14. Yves Tumor, ‘Safe in the Hands of Love’

Shards of glimmering industrial anarcho-soul.

15. Lil Peep, ‘Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2’

The ghost of the 2018 year in pop that never was.

Best Songs

1. Bad Bunny

“Estamos Bien”;

“Mia,” featuring Drake;

“I Like It,” with Cardi B and J Balvin;

“Te Boté (Remix)," with Nio García, Darell, Casper Magico, Nicky Jam and Ozuna

2. BlocBoy JB featuring Drake

“Look Alive”

3. Ella Mai

“Boo’d Up” and “Trip”

4. Sheck Wes

“Mo Bamba” and “Live Sheck Wes”

5. Anuel AA featuring Romeo Santos

“Ella Quiere Beber (Remix)”

6. Bradley Cooper

“Maybe It’s Time”;

with Lady Gaga,


7. ASAP Rocky and Tyler, the Creator

“Potato Salad”

8. Project Youngin x

Einer Bankz

“Thug Souljas Acoustic”

9. girl in red

“I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend”

10. Shoreline Mafia


11. Carrie Underwood

“Cry Pretty”

12. Gallant


13. Lil Tjay


14. William Michael Morgan


15. Tomberlin